Working past “normal” retirement age can be good not only for your pocketbook but also your health.
You may have good reasons to want to retire. Your company may require it, or you have health or family reasons that make leaving the workforce a sensible decision.
Perhaps you hate your boss or the work you’re doing and can’t wait to say adios to all that.
Perhaps you just feel burned out, and the idea of not having to get up every morning and head off to a job sounds absolutely delicious.
Consider thinking again.
Aside from the obvious financial benefits, work can actually help you live longer. In a recent Oregon State University study, people who stayed on the job one year beyond age 65 had an 11 percent lower risk of death — no matter what the job (blue or white collar or service). Even people who self-reported as being in poor health lived longer if they kept on working.
We used to think older workers were less effective, but the fact is that, in many fields, the 60-plus-year-old brain has a leg up on younger, less experienced brains. Plus, it works both ways. Continuing to use your mind is good for it, and being put in situations where you must deal with all sorts of different people keeps you emotionally fit. Finally, working gives you a sense of identity and belonging.
Of course, all of these good things happen when you are doing work you enjoy, so if you truly despise the job you have now, definitely take that gold watch when it is handed to you. And then give serious thought to finding paid (or volunteer!) work that you really love and helps you remain engaged with life.
You won’t be alone. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 19 percent of Americans age 65 and up are still working. This number is expected to go up to 32 percent within the next five years. Yes, many of these people are continuing to punch in for purely financial reasons (too many baby boomers have not saved enough for retirement) but even they are benefiting from those intangibles that work gives us.
It’s not as if you will never retire. Seventy may be the new 50, but the point will come when you will need to stop working. Until then, however, consider the joys of work.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use and of the novel “The Paris Effect.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.